The Miami Dolphins traded 3 draft picks to the Washington Redskins in order to acquire their 2nd round pick on draft day for the 2011 NFL draft. That pick (#62 overall) was used to draft running back Daniel Thomas out of Kansas State University. At 6’1″ 230 the plan was to have Thomas provide the thunder to go with the Reggie Bush lightning. As they say, sometimes the best laid plans…
Thomas grew up playing QB/WR/Defense. He actually was slated to attend the University of Florida as a QB, but his grades ultimately did not allow that. He began his college career as a running back at Northwest Mississippi Community College and impressed to the point where he became a Wildcat at K-State. His rushing numbers got better and better (he led the Big-12 for rushing yards in both of his K-State seasons). His touchdown production became off the hook. GM Jeff Ireland wanted this guy to be a Dolphin.
His rookie campaign was decent-at-best. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, and was a horrid 3 for 13 on 3rd-and-1 conversions. His TD production was non-existent (how about ZERO rushing TDs). His career started brilliantly. He averaged 120 yards from scrimmage, and scored a receiving TD in his first 2 games. Then a hamstring injury sidelined Thomas and slowed his rookie season. He did have solid games later on in the season vs the Oakland Raiders and vs the Buffalo Bills, but the consistency simply was not there. His 2011 ended with 4-straight duds (vs the Philadelphia Eagles, and all 3 AFC East foes) where he averaged a putrid 2.4 yards per carry. Overall Thomas had a disappointing 3.1 yards per carry vs AFC East teams. More thumbs down than thumbs up for Thomas’ rookie campaign.
His 2012 is not off to a good start. He has been scolded by the coaching staff multiple times for team infractions. His on-filed production has been poor at just 3.1 yards per carry. The play calling on short yardage no longer includes Thomas as guys like Jorvorskie Lane are getting the chance to convert those situations. (Jorvorskie Lane article HERE)
This is a Dolphins team in rebuild-mode. They are likely to lose #1 running back Bush to free agency following this season. This should be a chance for Thomas to take the ball and run with it (pun somewhat intended) but so far it is not looking good. He has the ability to be a strong downhill runner. He has patience and is hard to bring down. He has a rep as a guy with a good work ethic (although that has not been the case in Dolphins camp this year) and does not have a lot of wear-and-tear on his body as he has only been a RB for a few years.
His pass-protection surely needs to improve, as does his technique when getting his carries (can run too upright at times). He is not a home run threat with his 4.6/40 speed so he needs to improve his short-yardage skills to show he is legit thunder for the lightning of Bush (or in the near future Lamar Miller). He has good hands so he can be used as an element of surprise out of the backfield, and/or as a viable check-down option for QB Ryan Tannehill (Ryan Tannehill Player Profile HERE).
Thomas will turn 25 during the season. He is not earning his carries currently, but by default we see he will get an opportunity to produce for the 2012 Dolphins. Tough to say that a 2nd-year player is in a make-or-break season, but this entire Dolphins roster is in flux and Joe Philbin will require improvement/production in order to remain on this team.
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